Tricolor and Crescent

France and the Islamic World

by William E. Watson


Watson explores France's 1,400-year relationship with Islam and Muslim populations.

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Cover image for Tricolor and Crescent

June 2003


Pages 320
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics World History/Religion
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    Hardcover: £54.00/58,00€/A$89.00

For 1,400 years, France has been in contact with Islam and Muslim populations. This study explores their long relationship and history, examining in particular the expansion and contraction of France's Islamic Empire throughout the 20th century. This modern empire essentially consisted of conquered territories inhabited by Muslims and administered by Frenchmen. Thus far, France has avoided a September 11-type terrorist attack despite the intra-country presence of Muslim terrorist groups like the Roubaix gang and Bin Laden's al-Qa'ida. Other Western countries can learn a great deal from France's long and varied experiences.

Watson addresses the origins of Franco-Muslim contact and details early cases of French expansion into the Islamic world. The bulk of the book, however, focuses on the creation of the modern French Empire in Saharan and Sudannic Africa, as well as in Syria and the Lebanese Mandates, during the New Imperialism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Features include a selection of pertinent documents that illustrate the extent of French involvement with the Islamic world.

Table of Contents

Three Legacies: Charles Martel, the Crusades, and NapoleonThe Sahara and the LegionFrance, the Muslims, and Eastern Mediterranean Through World War IFrench Colonization in the Islamic World Through the Interwar YearsWorld War II, the Arabs, and the EmpireThe Beginning of the End of the French Islamic EmpireThe Algerian CrisisThe Aftermath of Empire



This book by an American historian explores the 1400-year relationship between France and Islamic populations. It also provides 80 pages of documents and official statements illustrating that long contact....Recommended. Graduate collections and beyond; helpful for specialists in French policy toward Muslim countries.—Choice

^ITricolor and Crescent^R is a very informative work. That format, particularly combined with the document section, renders it very useful for a class room setting as both a textbook and a reader. Also, Watson's writing style is highly engaging, this maintaining the attention of even the most novice of students to Middle Eastern, or for that matter, French international affairs. Indeed, considering the United States' current predicament, it might provide some more useful insights rather than that of the Vietnam paradigm.—Itinerario

^I Tricolor and Crescent^R offers students directions for further study regarding this significant subject.—Middle East Quarterly


It is not widely appreciated that through nearly fourteen centuries, France has been the western European country with perhaps the longest and most enduring encounter with Islam. William Watson tells the history of this encounter with accuracy and verve, bringing together much information and insight. The reader comes away wondering: although France failed to transform the Muslim world, might the opposite yet occur?—Daniel Pipes^LDirector, Middle East Forum

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